Friday, April 9, 2010

What's In A Name

I grew up in Southern California. Sunshine and post-war prosperity were the constants in Granada Hills in the 50’s and 60’s. Housing developments sprang up where lemon groves had once stood. One day my family’s house was surrounded by lemon trees and the next day huge bulldozers had flatted the trees and created a new neighborhood. Our only neighbors had been the migrant workers who irrigated the trees and picked the fruit. Then there were houses, paved streets, sidewalks and neighbors.

In the 50’s children played outside. We roamed in groups. Sometimes leaving home in the morning and not returning until late in the afternoon. We played kick the can in the cul-de-sac and rode our bikes on the sidewalk. Cathy Olsen had a license plate on her bike. In black and yellow California license plate colors it said “Cathy.” Lots of kids in the neighborhood had personalized license plates that they had secured by mailing off labels from cereal boxes and a small handling fee. Other friends had started the school year with pencils with their names printed on them. I never had a license plate for my bike and I’ve never had pencils with my name printed on them.

I am one of those people who has to go through life spelling my name because it is not a traditional spelling. It’s one more thing I can blame on my mother. I lusted after those pencils. In the 50’s personalized clothing, cups and pencils weren’t as common as today. Every time I went to Disneyland as a child I scanned the gift store racks for personalized items with my name. I never found it.

My mother had a multi-syllabic name, Barbara. She disliked when people called her Babs or Barby. She consciously named each of her three children a one syllable name that can’t be shortened to anything else. I, secretly, always wanted a nickname. If I couldn’t have a nickname, why not at least a personalized cup or pencil? My name is Jann. Not Janet, not Jane, not Janice, not even Jan. It’s Jann, with two “n’s” Other than the guy who publishes Rolling Stone, Jann Wenner, it is rare to run across anyone with my name.

I’ve had friends tell me how they were named. Usually it’s a family name, or the name means something like strength or bravery or spirituality. I guess having just one syllable is just as valid an excuse for a name, but not as emotionally powerful as being named after a famous ancestor.

One thing I liked about being a school administrator was having notepads with my name on them. I still have a few pads around the house that say “From the Desk of Jann Tresham, Assistant Principal.” I suppose I could even get an Oregon license plate with my name on it. Now that I have a presence on the internet I even have a nickname. It’s #1Nana…but I don’t think they have pencils with that name either. I can’t win!

1 comment:

  1. Such a nostalgic and fun post...I loved reading it. It gave me a glimpse into your childhood. great work...maybe I should tell the story of my name and how my parents chose it??


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